The Long-Term Injury Provision: What if Chris Bosh Can’t Play Again?

Bosh

Image Source: Business Insider

For Chris Bosh, the past two seasons have ended with serious health scares that forced him to sit out the remainder of the Miami Heat’s regular season games and, this year, their playoff run. A sure-fire Hall of Famer, we’d all love to see Bosh go out on his own terms – a decision made by him and him alone. Unfortunately, some news out of Miami hints that won’t be the case, suggesting Bosh is at serious risk of never being able to play an NBA minute again with blood clot issues.

Chris Bosh has 3 years, $75M left on his 5-year, $118M deal that was signed in the summer of 2014. There are three ways this could go for Miami. The first is if Bosh chooses to retire and forgo the money left on his contract. In this case, Bosh and the Heat would part ways and Bosh’s remaining salary would come off of Miami’s team salary. The second is if Bosh and the Heat agree to a buyout, with Bosh agreeing to take less money now in hopes of an eventual NBA return. The third is if Bosh’s health qualifies as a career-ending injury[1]. In this case, there are more moving pieces and the CBA details how the remaining money left on Bosh’s contract is handled and the options and restrictions for the Heat.

This post will detail the third case explained above. If the Heat believe Bosh is unable to play, how are they affected and what it does do to their team salary? If Bosh doesn’t want to retire and Miami is unable to trade him, the Heat would terminate Bosh’s contract through the NBA waiver procedure, and Bosh’s salary would eventually be removed from Miami’s cap sheet. However, because the contract was terminated due to a career-ending injury or illness, the length of time Bosh’s salary counts against Miami’s  cap sheet is adjusted.

On the first anniversary of the date of the last NBA game Bosh played in, the Heat could petition the league to have his salary excluded from their team salary.[2] For Bosh and the Heat, this means that after they waived Bosh and terminated his contract, on February 9, 2017, they would ask the league to remove Bosh’s dead money cap hit from their books for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 seasons. Now, the CBA does not appear to restrict Miami from stretching Bosh’s dead money cap hit this summer. So they could technically stretch Bosh’s cap hit for the last 2 seasons of his contract over 5 seasons to benefit their short-term outlook before the league removes it. If stretched, Bosh’s cap hit would look like the following (before Miami removes it):

Season Cap Hit
2016-17 $23,741,060
2017-18 $10,425,422
2018-19 $10,425,422
2019-20 $10,425,422
2020-21 $10,425,422
2021-22 $10,425,422

In short, if the Heat get Bosh’s salary removed under the long-term injury provision, it technically doesn’t help their situation until the trade deadline of the 2016-17 season (assuming the NBA approves their application in a timely manner) and beyond because they wouldn’t be able to clear that space in time for the upcoming offseason. Even if Bosh’s salary was stretched this summer, it’d still be on the Heat’s cap sheet in full for the 2016-17 season, as shown in the table above.[3]

An important aside: Though the Heat were not eligible for it this season because Bosh stopped playing in February, Miami could technically apply (starting July 1) for a Disabled Player Exception if doctors think he’ll be out for the entirety of the 2016-17 season too. However, if they apply for such an exception, even if the NBA denies their application, Miami is prohibited from using this long-term injury provision to save them from Bosh’s remaining salary.

While this long-term injury provision is a useful one for NBA teams when unfortunate situations like Bosh’s arise, it is not without risk. Specifically, what happens if Bosh is able to come back and play? There are two downsides for Miami if this is the case.

First, if Bosh were to play in at least 25 games (including the playoffs) in any of the next 3 seasons (or 7 seasons if Bosh’s cap hit was stretched) for another team, then Bosh’s dead money cap hit for that season would be re-applied to Miami’s team salary during that season, as would any dead money cap hits that would have been applied to future seasons if the NBA had not removed them.[4] So, for example, let’s say that the Los Angeles Clippers signed Bosh for the minimum in 2017-18 and he played at least 25 games. In this instance, Bosh’s 2017-18 and 2018-19 salary would be re-applied to Miami’s team salary for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons (or longer and at a smaller dollar amount if Bosh’s salary was stretched).[5] After the 2017-18 season, though, Miami would be permitted to reapply to have Bosh’s remaining cap hit (for 2018-19) removed from their team salary, subject to the waiting periods specified in footnote [2] below.

Second, once Miami applies to have the NBA remove Bosh’s salary from its cap sheet and it is approved by the league, the Heat can never have Bosh on their roster again. They can’t sign him as a free agent and they can’t trade for him, even if he makes a full recovery and is able to play until he’s 40 years old.

Hopefully Bosh is able to make a full recovery and play out the rest of his contract with the Miami Heat without any further injuries or health scares. But if not, the Heat have a number of decisions to make and conversations to have regarding how they go forward and what is best for the team.

_______________________________________________________________________

[1] Whether a player suffered a career ending injury or illness is determined by a physician jointly selected by the NBA and the NBPA. The injury or illness must prevent the player from playing skilled basketball at an NBA level for the duration of his career or substantially impair his ability to play and subject the player to “medically unacceptable risk of suffering a life-threatening or permanently disabling injury or illness.”

[2] This time period is different depending on how many games the player played in his career-ending injury season. If the player played in 10 or more NBA games (including the playoffs), the team can petition the NBA to erase the player’s cap hit on the first anniversary on the player’s last game. If the player played in less than 10 NBA games, the team can petition the NBA to erase his salary on the later of (i) 60 after the end of that season and (ii) the first anniversary of the date during a prior NBA season in which the injury occurred.

[3] This is assuming Miami waives Bosh after September 1, 2016. However, if Bosh was waived before July 1st or between July 1, 2016 and August 31, 2016, technically Miami would be able to stretch his salary over 7 seasons and would be able to improve their cap situation sooner.

[4] It’s important to note that the salary will not be re-applied until the player plays his 25th game. If the 25th game is a playoff game, the salary is retroactively applied as of date of the team’s last regular season game.

[4] The CBA doesn’t appear to limit a team’s ability to set-off Bosh’s new contract. So if Bosh was paid more than the minimum by the Clippers (or any other team), Bosh’s dead money cap hit re-applied to the Heat’s team salary would be slightly less than his full salary. Details of set-off calculations can be found here.

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